A Decluttering Story

This is a light-hearted (true) decluttering story of some of the things I cleared out after my Mum died.


When my Mum passed away, I was given four weeks to clear her flat. I took home everything that I couldn’t make an immediate decision on. That meant dozens and dozens of boxes and items came back to our house and ended up being piled up wherever I could fit them, from the loft, to the corner of my daughter’s room, to the conservatory. We have no storage space in our house, so for a while it felt as though my mum had moved in with us.

Box by box, I went through everything over a period of months. I do still have some things left. There is jewellery, hundreds of photos, and other more sentimental items that I need more time to deal with. But the majority of her things I have managed to find a new home for. Mum was always interested in collectables and antiques, so a lot of her stuff had some monetary value, and some of it was really unusual.

Oh Mandy

As emotional as it was dealing with Mum’s things, it wasn’t all bad. There was the week I sorted through her vinyl records. I don’t have a record player, but I do have an Apple Music subscription so I looked up every record I remembered her playing and spent several evenings listening to the dulcet tones of Tom Jones, Demis Roussos, Glen Campbell and Barry Manilow. I played “Mandy” about 15 times in a row – I honestly had no idea I liked Barry so much. I’m sure my neighbours appreciated the trip down memory lane. They are ten years younger than me, but who doesn’t love a Manilow song?

Mum had some strange and unusual items too, some of which I had never even seen before. I was emptying out a drawer in her flat when I came across a sawn off cow horn. I had no idea what to do with it (and at the time I wasn’t 100% sure it was bovine and didn’t want to send a rhino horn to the charity shop), so it came home.

Anyone need a cow horn?

After identifying it with the help of Google (pretty sure it was a from a cow), I decided to list it on eBay. I sent many bags of things to the charity shop, but sometimes when I want to declutter something unusual it feels like I should do better and see if I can find exactly the right owner. It didn’t make sense to chop off more cow horns when I had a perfectly good one that someone could have. Somewhere out there, I was sure there was someone who would love it.

And there was. Because after I had listed it he messaged me and asked if the cow horn was sanitised for the consumption of liquids. And how much liquid it could hold.

I can’t actually think of any reason to drink out of a cow horn unless you are taking part in some kind of satanic ritual – not that I’d know.

I told him I had no idea, but that it looked very clean. Then I sent him some length measurements (difficult to be precise because of the curve), and waited.

He bought it. I packaged it up and hoped it was going to a good home.

The Rooster Debacle

Mum had a lot of solid brass statues. They aren’t worth much, even as scrap, but there are a lot of people out there that really love brass. And pubs use them as decorations too. She had about 15 brass statues of varying size, and I listed all of them on eBay, from the 8kg Cowboy Standing By His Horse to the teensy 0.5 inch brass duck.

As you can well imagine, listing items on eBay is not the most interesting of pastimes. But I really wanted the things Mum loved to go to people that would appreciate them. I had already taken about 10 bags to the local charity shop by this point and they had hinted at my last trip that surplus stock would be refused.

To make listing things on eBay slightly more interesting, I started to become more creative with the titles. Small Brass Duck sounded much better as Tiny Solid Brass Mallard With Flat Bottom. Small Brass Rat was better as Solid Brass Very Realistic Rat With Long Tail.

The last brass item I listed was a Rooster that was six inches tall. Idly, I typed into the title field: 6 Inch Solid Brass Cock.

Mum would have found that really funny, I thought. I laughed to myself and submitted the listing (grief makes you do odd things).

One week later nobody had bid on it, but it had had a lot of views. Five minutes before the end of the auction, a bid went in and it sold for 99p. Fab. Someone did want it after all.

Then my phone pinged and I had a message from the buyer.

Where do you live? I want to collect it today.

I went back to the listing and noticed that I’d left ‘collection’ ticked as an option.

I’d advertised a six inch solid brass cock, my username had the word “girl” in it from when I’d joined eBay back in 2003, and I’d made it clear that the winner could collect it from me in person. Doh.

The last thing I wanted was someone leaving me negative feedback when I told them they couldn’t collect and had to pay £2.95 postage on a 99p item. But there was no way I wanted this man to come to my house either.

After some thought on how best to handle the situation, I messaged him back and said:

I told my wife she was being an idiot for listing it like that. I can drop it round to you mate, or you can just cancel the bid if you’re having a laugh.

And then I waited, wondering who I was going to ask to play my ‘husband’ if the dude said he still wanted it, and how exactly I would explain to them that they needed to take a brass cock to someone’s house.

Finally, he replied.

I just thought I could collect it as I’m local, but please cancel it.

Omg! Right?

I re-listed it as a Solid Brass Rooster. And I put the height in the description, not the title. It went to a good home.

Up In Arms

It took about five months before I had finished sorting through all the boxes, and finding a home for everything. I had put aside the heavy sentimental stuff for another day (or year), and I had one bag left in the boot of my car that I needed to dispose of.

On a lovely sunny morning, I followed my sat nav to the nearest open police station (the one in my town is permanently closed, which is either really good news or really bad news). I parked up, opened the boot and took out a Marks and Spencer carrier bag from the back.

The police station reception was a square room with two service points on one side. The desk stretched across the whole room and the top half was completely covered with glass panelling. There was a small hole for transactions, a bit like how banks used to be. A man was talking to a police office at one desk, complaining about his neighbour stealing something from his garage.

Can I Help You?

Another police officer came out to the other desk, and asked if he could help. He was grey-haired, very tall and very serious looking. I stepped up to the glass panel and asked him if I could hand in knives.

“Hand in what?” he said, peering over his glasses at me.

“Knives?” I said, a bit louder this time.

The man with the pilfering neighbour looked sideways at me.

“Oh!” said the policeman. “Yes.”

“Great,” I told him, lifting up the Marks and Spencer bag and putting in on the edge of the desk. I reached in to grab a handful and started pushing Mum’s collection of sizeable pocket knives through the transaction hole. The policeman looked startled and grabbed them as I shoved them through. There was a lot of clattering and metal-on-metal, and then silence. The man with the pilfering neighbour and the other police officer had stopped talking and were just watching.

“What about ammunition?” I said next.

“Er,” said the policeman.

I reached into the Marks and Spencer bag and pulled out a bullet belt. It was actually from a French gun used in the second world war, so probably an antique, but it had a live bullet in it and I’d been driving around for weeks worrying about it exploding through the side of my car. I really didn’t want to take it home.

“Er, um, yes, we’ll take that,” he said.

“Great!” I beamed at him. I fed the bullet belt through the hole. “It’s not mine,” I said, suddenly conscious he might think I was some kind of criminal. “It’s my Mum’s”

He stared at me as if I was mad.

“Do I need to sign anything?” I asked

He shook his head. Jaw open.

“Great, thank you.”

I turned around and walked out into the sunshine. As with all decluttering, I walked back to my car lighter than I had left it, and with that sweet sense of peace and accomplishment you feel when you have found the right home for the things you no longer need.

A Decluttering Story

I shared this decluttering story because sometimes when someone dies we find ourselves in the oddest of situations. The kind of situation that the deceased person would no doubt have found hilarious.

And I also shared it to illustrate that things may mean so much to us, but to others they are just things.

If you have precious possessions, always be sure to share the story and the emotion with your loved ones. Maybe those knives meant something to my mum. I had never seen any of them before and all I could think of was that I didn’t want them ending up in the wrong hands. But whether they did mean something special to her or not, she would have enjoyed the story of what I did with them in the end.

I miss my Mum terribly, especially now – my first Christmas without her – but I know that she’s always a part of me and her memory lives on not in her things, but in the stories I will tell my children about her.

Merry Christmas, and happy New Year.

xxx

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A (true) decluttering story of some of the weird and wonderful things I decluttered after my Mum passed away. She would have laughed if she'd been there.

10 thoughts on “A Decluttering Story”

  1. Faye,

    You have some funny stories about disposing of your mother’s things. It’s wonderful that now you have even more good memories to associate with her.

    I can relate to this because I disposed of my mother-in-law’s things when we sold her house and moved her into an assisted living facility. She didn’t believe in throwing away anything, and my husband is no better, so after he gave away her furniture, he brought all of her personal possessions to our house and stored them in our two-car garage. It took me two months to go through everything and decide what to do with it all.

    I lost my mother and mother-in-law in the past two years, so I can imagine how you are having a rough time adjusting to a new “normal” without your mum. It’s hard. But it sounds like you picked out a good mum in the first place. What a wonderful heritage!

    • That must have been so difficult for both of you. I’m sorry for your loss, for each of you. It is tough, and there were many tears for me, but now the dust is beginning to settle I can see that it’s not all heartache. Eventually you find memories to make you smile again and that is good for everyone, I think.

  2. Ha! I liked all the stories but the police one was the best. Gave me a good chuckle. It’s good for you to be able to see the humour in those moments as I’m sure it was also filled with so much sadness and grief. I hope her absence this Christmas didn’t ache too painfully. It must be so hard x

    • It was better than I was expecting – the thought of her not being there at Christmas was worse than the actual event, which was really quite relaxed and lovely. It really helped that out of the blue last year all my family (mum, dad, brother), ended up coming to me, so I felt like we got a great last Christmas in together before she went. I’ve been so thankful for that… Every now and then you get lucky 🍀😊

  3. I lost my mom this year as well. Just spend my first Christmas without her. Seemed very strange. Guess just have to get used to new normal. Haven’t gone thru all her things yet. My daughter and i plan to do that on her one year anniversary. Hopefully a little easier then. I’m sure we’ll share some laughs. My mom was quite a character! Thanks for sharing😊

    • I’m sorry for your loss. It’s so hard losing a parent. I hope you can find some things to smile about as you sort through her things 💕

  4. I lost my mom last year February and I’m in the same process. I enjoyed reading your post which has inspired me to continue my purging. I’ve had some guilt getting rid of her things then I think that her things should have a home with someone who appreciates them and not sitting around as clutter.

    • It has really helped me to imagine Mum’s things going to someone’s home who will look after them. She had a lot of ornamental stuff, and it was hard to let it go as it was so precious to her, but I know she’d be happier with the things displayed in someone else’s home rather than boxed up in mine. I’m sorry for your loss – it’s a very rough thing to deal with and I think it’s only when you lose a parent yourself that you truly understand what other people go through. I wish you a happier 2019.

  5. I feel your pain, I was an only child and I had a whole house and 47 years of clutter to deal with when I lost my parents. That was almost 10 years ago – now I have have a different issue to deal with! I completely decluttered my whole house last year. I have managed to assemble mum and dads most precious and truly sentimental items into a large suitcase – I don’t want them on show but I do love to look, smell and feel them sometimes. However, my problem is that I still have both of my parents ashes. I have had various people tell that I should be ashamed of myself for not scattering them, but it’s a very personal choice and selfishly I wanted to keep them both with me. It’s taken a long time but I have finally made the decision to scatter them in our back garden. My husband suggested we plant a tree in their memory but I don’t want the fear that it will die. But the time has come and I am ready, now I am waiting until a bright and sunshiny day and I will spend sometime on my own in this final act of letting go.

    • I still have my Mum’s ashes, and I understand completely the reticence in not wanting to scatter them. It is a personal choice, and when it comes to clutter you can focus on 1000 other items before worrying about big sentimental things. I love the idea of them being in the back garden – somewhere you can still feel close to them, but it allows them to go back to nature. Thank you for sharing – it’s such a difficult process to go through that I think only people that have experienced it can understand the hole it leaves in your life. Enjoy your day with them, when you are ready, and I hope it brings you much peace xxx

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